Friday, August 16, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake

The weather has been glorious the past few days. Sunny non-humid days, cool, perfect sleeping weather nights. It feels more like September than August, but I am not complaining as I love September weather (even if we get to experience it in August). It was the perfect baking in the summer morning day and I needed a reason to use some of the fresh blueberries picked from the blueberry farm yesterday. Thankfully the blueberry bushes here still have plenty of blueberries on them and hopefully there will be more ripened berries early next week (is there such a thing as too many frozen blueberries?). I was debating about whether to make a blueberry crostata flavored with orange and ginger or the blueberry lemon bundt cake and decided I would do both (of course); one this morning and the other tomorrow to bring as a hostess gift to a dinner gathering.

Before I made the bundt cake I had to find the bundt pan I bought a few months back. (I am slowly duplicating cooking tools here in the east coast house which at some point in time will not necessary be a good thing. But I suppose that happens when one lives in two places). I had wanted this Nordic Ware bundt pan as I love how a finished cake looks. To me it seems a cake is almost regal looking, but then maybe I have regal on the brain as I am in the midst of reading "The Game of Thrones" (an epic fantasy series). Only this was a 10 cup bundt pan and the recipe called for a 12 cup bundt pan. I made it work by increasing the baking time as I had my heart set on making this fresh blueberry lemon cake in this bundt pan. My other option would have been to remove some of the batter and bake it up in smaller bundt pans (but I haven't duplicated that baking tool, yet).

I don't know what it is about blueberries that I love so much. Their taste, color, shape, size, or versatility? Probably all of the aforementioned. I wish I lived in a climate where they grew twelve months of the year as I don't think I would ever tire of eating or picking fresh blueberries.

My blueberries were not from Maine, but I used unsalted butter and buttermilk from Maine. I had read somewhere about Kate's butter and thought I would try using in it (usually go between using Land O'Lakes or Kerrygold unsalted butter when baking). I loved how it creamed up when it was mixed with the sugar and I loved the taste of the finished cake. I suppose I would have to make two cakes using two different butters to discern if there was really a difference, but I think I prefer to convince myself there was a difference.

The original recipe called for both the use of lemon zest and lemon extract, but having made the cake before I didn't like taste of the lemon extract so I used vanilla instead. But that's my personal preference.

The finished batter of the cake is very thick, like pound cake thick. So when stirring in the lightly floured blueberries, be certain to use a spatula or wooden spoon and carefully stir them in. The blueberries will burst when baking but you don't want your batter turning purple on you. Yes I know  purple cake might look regal, but maybe regally unappetizing.

Preparing the bundt pan is really important here if you want your cake to unmold perfectly. I just pour some canola oil into the pan and rub with a paper towel. Cake flour is sprinkled and swirled in the pan. The excess flour is removed by turning the pan upside-down over the sink and tapping the pan. I have not always had success with oil sprays when preparing bundt pans. Once I grabbed the olive oil spray and discovered a little too late my mistake. So I rely on the old-fashioned way of preparing the bundt pan.

Once the batter is transferred to the bundt pan, you will smooth the top with an offset spatula. If you don't have one, a spatula will work as well. Just know this batter is so delicious, that you will want to leave some on the spatula to enjoy once the cake is in the preheated 350 degree oven.

The baking time for this blueberry lemon bundt cake in a 12 cup capacity bundt pan is 55 to 60 minutes. You know it is finished when a toothpick or cake tester placed in the center of the cake comes out clean. The baking time on the 10 cup bundt pan was 75 minutes, but I started checking every five minutes after the 60 minute mark.

The finished cake is set on a baking rack for 10 minutes before it is unmolded. Wait time here is important as the bundt pan itself is incredibly hot and cake needs a bit of resting period. Unmolded this cake is absolutely beautiful. Once the cake cools, dust with confectionary sugar and serve.

This cake can be made the day before so it is a perfect cake to bring to neighbor's house, to a meeting at work, to a book club, or to a long weekend stay at friend's house. The aroma of this cake is so incredible that your family or guests may not want to wait until it's cooled enough for the dusting of confectionary sugar.

Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake (modified recipe from Abby Mandel, Chicago Tribune, 2005)

3 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
Finely grated rind from two lemons
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries and 3 Tablespoons cake flour
Confectionary sugar for dusting finished cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Prepare 12 cup capacity bundt pan (lightly oil and flour, shaking out excess flour)
3. Sift flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
4. Using a paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy.
5. Add eggs and vanilla, beating 3 minutes (mixture will become thick and smooth).
6. Add sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk. mix until well combined.
7. Toss blueberries with 3 tablespoons of cake flour before mixing into batter. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix in blueberries.
8. Transfer batter to prepared bundt pan. Smooth surface with a spatula or offset spatula.
9. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
10. Place cake on a wire rack and let rest for 10 minutes.
11. Unmold the cake onto a platter or cake stand.
12. When cooled completely, sprinkle with confectionary sugar.
Note: If not serving immediately, store at room temperature well covered or in an airtight container. Cake can be made a day ahead.

I was at the farm stand the other day and saw some native peaches. I couldn't help taking some photos of them before I bought some. When I am taking photos I sort of get in a zone and don't hear or see anyone else around me. It is the same sort of zone I get in (or used to get in more often) when I run. I have begun to return to running again, only this time I am even slower than I was before. (While I am not as young as I used to be, my competitive ego is still operating from years ago having not kept up with the aging of my body.) Not sure yet if another 5k or 10k is in my future, but this time the return to running is for a completely different reason.

I have yet to get 'in the zone' while running, but it is that place I hope to get to soon (right now I am focusing too much on my breathing, pace and distance). I came to running as an older adult and for several years was religious about it. But I let work and the need for sleep get in the way. Realizing in retrospect that I should have made running more of a priority as I felt so much better when I ran (no matter how long I spent at work or how little sleep I may have gotten).

But running for has always been a 'head' game. If I ever doubted myself on a run or focused too much on an injury, my runs were invariably cut short. But when I just let my mind wander as I ran, I would get into that 'zone' and running felt easier, a little more effortless. This time my return to running is to move from fantasizing about to again experiencing being 'in the zone' as this an energizing place, a place where I believe almost anything is possible.

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